The act of listening to speech activates a large network of brain areas. In the present work, a novel data-driven technique (the combination of independent component analysis and Granger causality) was used to extract brain network dynamics from an fMRI study of passive listening to Words, Pseudo-Words, and Reverse-played words. Using this method we show the functional connectivity modulations among classical language regions (Broca's and Wernicke's areas) and inferior parietal, somatosensory, and motor areas and right cerebellum. Word listening elicited a compact pattern of connectivity within a parieto-somato-motor network and between the superior temporal and inferior frontal gyri. Pseudo-Word stimuli induced activities similar to the Word condition, which were characterized by a highly recurrent connectivity pattern, mostly driven by the temporal lobe activity. Also the Reversed-Word condition revealed an important influence of temporal cortices, but no integrated activity of the parieto-somato-motor network. In parallel, the right cerebellum lost its functional connection with motor areas, present in both Word and Pseudo-Word listening. The inability of the participant to produce the Reversed-Word stimuli also evidenced two separate networks: the first was driven by frontal areas and the right cerebellum toward somatosensory cortices; the second was triggered by temporal and parietal sites towards motor areas. Summing up, our results suggest that semantic content modulates the general compactness of network dynamics as well as the balance between frontal and temporal language areas in driving those dynamics. The degree of reproducibility of auditory speech material modulates the connectivity pattern within and toward somatosensory and motor areas.
Copyright 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.